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Wholesale bike sales plummet 18% in May, down 14% this year

Published June 27, 2019

BOULDER, Colo. (BRAIN) — Wholesale bike sales to retailers fell 18% in May, by unit count. A higher average wholesale price reduced the pain somewhat: dollar sales were down less than 4% in the month.

Wholesale sell-in, reported by the Bicycle Product Suppliers Association, lag retail sales, and single month figures can be deceptive because of pre-season shipments and other cyclical changes. For example, May sales may have slumped somewhat because retailers bought more earlier this year before the Trump adminstration's new tariffs on Chinese imports increased from 10% to 25%.

Poor weather in many parts of the country, including floods in Midwest and late winter/early spring snows in the Rockies, also was likely a factor. 

Another factor: the BPSA Sell-in Report tracks sales of participating BPSA member wholesalers to retailers, including specialty retailers and others. Consumer-direct sales, which by some accounts are on the rise, are not counted.

While May import numbers are not yet available from the U.S. Department of Commerce, earlier 2019 figures show slight percentage increases in bike imports, by unit, suggesting that the U.S. is bringing in bikes at similar rates as previous years.

The BPSA's year-to-date figures are slightly more encouraging than May: through the first five months of 2019, wholesale sales of bikes were up 1.6% in dollars from the same period in 2018. In units, bike sales were down 13.6%.

Some niche subcategories saw growth in May. BMX bikes, kids bikes with wheels smaller than 20-inches, cyclocross bikes, "other" road bikes (including gravel bikes), triathlon bikes, fat bikes, and e-bikes all saw increases in dollar sales in the month.

E-bike sales were up 32% in units and 66% in dollars year to date.  So far this year, e-bikes have accounted for 4.2% of all wholesale sales by unit count, and 16.2% of sales by dollar.

But the largest categories of bikes all saw declines in May. In unit sales lifestyle/leisure bikes were down 35%; mountain bikes were down 15.7%; road bikes were down 17%; transit/fitness was down 21.4%; and youth bikes were down 6.9%.

On the inventory side, the dollar value of bikes in stock at the end of May was up 14.5% from the same time last year. In units, inventory was up 8.5%.

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